Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fairies Be Gone!!!!

My daughter has been a fairy fan for a long time. We have fairy beds, trees, furniture, in fact, full fairy habitats. A fairy would find quite a comfortable life style living at our house.

Three years ago Sophia wanted, nay, begged to have fairies painted on her walls. I had just finished painting a full mural of monster trucks flying all around the boys room. I obliged. We painted her entire room with a blue sky full of puffy clouds, there were hills covered with trees and flowers and fairies in those trees and one flying through the air for good measure. I did most of it but she wanted to paint too. I let her paint a tree, some flowers, a tree house etc. She was so proud of herself and it was very cute. It was bonding time for us. She was thrilled and the envy of all her 7 year old pals. It was fun to do and a lot of work. But it was worth it to see how happy she was. I would have loved it when I was a kid.

Two years later she asked, "Mom, now let's paint an underwater scene." I told her to forget it. I was NOT going to be painting murals in her room every year or two. Yeah, like I have all the time in the world to be painting murals annually. Give me a break!

Well now she's a bit older and doesn't believe in fairies any more. Oh that was a sad day! It still makes me sad. She said that she wanted a big girl room and I can understand that. It still makes it a bit sad. I am thrilled that she is growing up and turning into such a beautiful young girl. She's got lots of interests, is learning the ins and outs of being a friend, she loves her brothers. She is a wonderful kid. But as we all do, I get nostalgic for that sweet, innocent baby and little girl she was.

So Bob and I decided we’d paint her room for her. She picked California Dreamin’, Benjamin Moore #757. Lovely. It’s a blue color with a bit of green in it. Actually it works rather well with the few things that we got her from IKEA a last year when we first thought of painting. We spent the past couple of nights painting. Bob did the lion’s share of the work. He is the world’s greatest daddy. He did say that as he was painting he could hear the fairies faint cries. “They were saying, ‘Oh, NO!!!’” And then he laughed and painted over their faces. Poor forgotten fairies.

I bought a couple things from IKEA to help her organize her room. There are some drawers to put under her desk for storage and some shelves to put her books and chotchkies. Man she has a lot of those. We’re going to put all the art supplies down in the basement and we’re going to make her room more like a big girl’s room. She’ll be able to hang out with her friends and do her home work in there. It’s time to let the baby go and fully embrace the tween.

I am happy that I have kept journals and a blog. I have lots of pictures and a few videos too. But it’s not the same and honestly, I don’t want it to be. There’s always going to be that spot in my heart for my baby girl who is gone. I know I loved her fiercely when she was smaller and I really enjoyed her too. It is that little girl and the mommy, friends and family that loved her that made her what she is today and for that I am also grateful. It’s yet another stage that she is going through and I am privileged to witness her develop in to the miracle that is my daughter. She is stepping over a threshold and can’t cross back and I wouldn’t want her to if she could. I know all that may sound sappy or over the top but it is how I am feeling.

I hope she enjoys the new look in her room. As she prances in there with her 10 year old attitude she needs to know that the next time she wants a change it will be Sophia who is painting it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Too Damn Long

Yes, it's been too damn long since I posted. I kind of revolted this past December. I refused to do our annual Christmas Party, I bought fewer gifts for everyone, we didn't entertain much and I generally refused to be over worked. Christmas is for everyone including me. Usually I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make everyone else happy thus stressing myself out totally. Not this year, not this time. I took a year off essentially. There was still a lot to do and a lot to think over. Christmas is busy no matter how you do it.

We did the Polar Express and Hood River on the first weekend of December. That was great fun but I did blog about that.

Sophia had a few performances in December. Her choir performed a few times. Two times at a retirement facility. The retirees have a choir and the kids came in to sing a couple songs with them. It was very cute. Sophia warned me before we went to the retirement home, "Mom, some of the people will be in wheel chairs." Ahh, yeah, I was pretty sure that some would be. She didn't want me to be shocked. Needless to say, I wasn't.

They also sang at the zoo during Zoo Lights. I did not get the following warning, "Mom, there will be some animals at the zoo." I was shocked, there WERE animals. I am pretty sure having the kids sing at the zoo is the zoo's way of getting bodies in the door. It was rainy and cold but we went and had a great time, elephant ears and all.

Next she was in "My Oregon Report" the 4th grade play. She was, wait for it, wait for it......the "Know-It-All." It just comes so naturally. Where ever did she get that? It must skip a generation. Mom and Ed made the trek down for the show. Rex and Tina came too. Greg and Rebecca showed up too. She had quite the fan turn out. The show was adorable. The kids were great and really excited. For the little kids it's like Broadway. For Sophia and her pals it was like being on Broadway. We were thrilled, as always, to have mom and Ed come for the show.

We attended a couple Christmas Parties. The first one was a family party at the Stewarts. They live near Peacock Lane. It's the local row of houses that decorates for the holiday. Cars and people line up to walk or drive the street. Personally, I don't find it that interesting but the kids love it and the longer I have these kids the more it is affirmed and confirmed that it is NOT ABOUT ME. Bob walked the kids down to Peacock Lane, I stayed behind to guard the house with a couple other moms.

The second Christmas Party was at Bob's boss's condo and was all his work friends. A couple days before the party 2 separate people came up to Bob and went through a whole story about how Susan, Bob's boss, wanted him to dress up as an elf. Bob was confused about the whole thing and said, "No, Susan had not mentioned this to him." Well of course we figured out it was a joke but we decided to follow through. I rented a giant elf suit and he showed up in it. Now there is a confident man. It was hilarious. Everyone got their picture with the giant elf. Eventually he changed into his regular clothes but then some late comers showed up so back on went the elf costume.

I attended a brunch at my friend Karmen's house. She is so sweet and had a white elephant gift exchange but she supplied all the gifts. We played a game to get to know everyone. Everyone was apprehensive about the game but of course, it was fun.

School was out for the whole week before Christmas. It was a fairly calm time with the kids. Bob took off work from December 22nd to January 3rd. It’s so nice to have him home when the kids are off. It took a while for him to get in the groove of our daily life but once he did it was all good.

Mom and Ed came back on the 23rd and stayed until the 27th. We had a really nice time. While they were here we went to the Nutcracker with all 3 kids. They boys had never been before. It was the last performance of the Nutcracker for the season so it was at noon on the 24th. I was a little nervous that the boys wouldn’t make it through the whole thing. Instead, they loved it! I think they may have cut it down a bit or at least it seemed shorter. Perhaps it was because it was so entertaining. I have seen the Nutcracker no less then10 times, probably closer to 15. Anyway, it is by far the best production of the Nutcracker I have ever seen. The sets were beautiful and the dancing was amazing. I have NEVER said that about the Nutcracker before. The snow fairies had a snow ball fight that was both funny and beautiful. Hard to describe for sure.

Rex and Tina joined us for Christmas Eve dinner. It’s always fun when we can all get together. Christmas morning was craziness as always. There was a bit less than usual but it was totally fine and the kids didn’t seem to notice. I hope to stay on this same trajectory for the next few years. The kids don’t “need” anything. We had a nice day and then went to dinner at the Wang’s and shared dinner with the Klines as well. It was such a nice dinner and the company was great. I love my friends so much and am continually grateful for my neighborhood, community and my amazing set of friends. That truly is the greatest gift of all.

The next couple days were fairly casual. The last day Ed felt the need to get home. They were out of town for 3 months until the end of November. To be gone for another long stint was just too much. He headed home and Mom stayed behind for the day. It was a drizzly day and the kids were jazzed to go to the zoo. We went a couple years ago when it was cold and rainy out and we loved it. The animals were out and the people were not. Perfect! As before, the animals were out. We had a really nice time and then spent a quiet afternoon at home until I took mom to the train station. It’s really nice to have the train as an option. It’s a nice ride and only about $30. We enjoyed having them here for the holiday.

The 28th and 29th was Horse Camp! Sophia got Horse Camp as one of her big gifts. Coulter and Kees had wanted to go but the camp was fairly full and Kees, he’s just not quite there. Sophia went on her own on the 28th. When I got there they said there was room for Coulter. Well I wasn’t going to go back and get him now but tomorrow? Yes, tomorrow. The following day was his birthday and he got to go to Horse Camp. He loved it! Sophia said he did really well, and she should know, she’s the “expert.”

We picked them up from Horse Camp and immediately headed to Pump It Up for Coulter’s Birthday Party. Coulter had never had a real birthday party before so this was a big deal. We invited a boat load of kids, about 25. I felt like we were doing our part for the community by providing a place for the kids to get their ya yas out during a cold and rainy time of year. The party was a smashing success and I thought it was the best money I have spent in a long time. No mess, no stress, no clean up, no prep no nothing. We brought a cake and they did the rest. I loved it! When our host said, “Would you like me to write down the kid’s names and what their gift is?” I wanted to kiss him. “Yes, yes I would like that.”

Coulter was so happy. It made me really happy. He was grateful, showed his appreciation and just shined.

To make sure our time was full we, of course, had a plan for the following day….BEACH!!!! Our friends Rebecca and Greg have a beautiful house in Manzanita and I kinda asked if we could come along. I did my best impression of puppy dog eyes and made it clear that we didn’t have plans for the New Years. Rebecca caught right on. It was Greg, Rebecca, Clara, her friend Alice and then our crew. It was great. We spent 3 nights and 4 days there. It was COLD! Like 28 degrees cold when we got there. We had to back track on the way there due to an accident on 26 but we got there safe and sound. Our time there was spent eating too much, reading, playing Scrabble and spending time on the beach.

The first full day we went to Cartem. That is always fun. It’s the local dump, recycling center and on-going flea market. If you can’t find it at Cartem you probably don’t need it. Rebecca, Sophia and I walked back to the house from Cartem. It’s about a mile or two. We had the dogs along and they needed some beach time. Now mind you it’s 28 degrees out and a bit breezy…. Sophia, the loon, took off her shoes and socks and ran around the beach bare foot. What is it with these kids? The last time it was that cold at the beach there was snow and all my kids took off their shoes and socks. They are a different breed for sure. After about a half hour she put them back on letting us know that, “The sand is REALLY cold.” Ahhh, yeah, we know that.

NYE was fun. We had a nice dinner, lots of snacky food and at 8:30 some friends came over with instruments in tow. There was a regular ole jam session going on for 2+ hours. I wished I had spoons or something I could use to participate. Maybe next year. Rebecca made home-made ice cream, the jam session was going on, the Leeks were bopping our heads up and down and everyone had a great time.

NYD was a bit slow in the morning. We all slept in 10:40 Sophia realized that there was only 20 minutes until the Polar Plunge! She ran and got Alice and Clara and they all jumped out of bed, put on their swim gear and hopped in the car. It was a balmy 38 degrees out. Better then the day before. When we arrived at the beach the girls ran off toward the crowd. Rebecca and I were in slippers so we abandon those at the edge of the beach and ran after the girls. They got there with moments to spare. There was a big group photo and then they all, about 150 of them, ran into the water! It was hilarious fun. They all survived and said the sand was the worst part. If that was the worst part I should have done it. My feet were frozen. The girls all said that the water was warmer then the air.

Later Bob and I took a long walk on the beach with the dogs. Half way through the kids decided they wanted to join us. Greg brought them to us along with their bikes. It was almost 50 on the beach and there was only a slight breeze. As it turned out, the kids didn’t want to walk, they wanted to play on the beach. That was fine. They played around a creek and in the dunes. Their shoes were either soaked or off and they had on short sleeves. Again, they don’t get cold! Crazy babies. We all hung out for a couple hours. Then back to the cabin for food and later Rebecca and I took a long walk on the beach to see the sunset. It was an amazing first sunset of 2011.

On our way home Bob and I talked. There was little TV while we were at the beach and the kids were great. We decided that there would be no TV for the month of January. There were some tears about that but if the kids were that emotionally attached to the TV we NEED to remove it. So far, so good. The kids have been fighting less, sleeping in more and have been generally more agreeable. I like it.

We made it home on the 2nd and unpacked. It would have been nice to have some more time at home before Bob had to go back to work but the time at the beach was great too. We unpacked, cleaned up, washed all the sand off and tried to go to bed at a decent hour so everyone would be ready to go back to school. Getting up on the 3rd was tough but we made it to school on time.

It was a fairly straight forward week, Meals on Wheels, school, choir for Fia, play dates for the boys, breakfast with a friend, etc. Then on Thursday Dad and Sally came. They were here to celebrate Coulter’s and Rex’s Birthdays. I made a big dinner and we all gathered around the table yet again. Friday was spent with Dad and Sal shopping at Sur La Table, Powell’s, and antique shopping, then having lunch with Kees.

Sophia skipped school to attend the River City Music Festival with Clara. She was very excited. She went to a kids work shop with Chick Rose. He is an institution in the Blue Grass community and the northwest. After a tough go getting started Sophia had a great time jammin’ with the kids and she was the first soloist of the whole festival! Very exciting to say the least.

We realized, after playing all day, that Sophia had out grown her fiddle so the next day we went and got her a bigger one. Problem was, because we’d been around so much music and blue grassers I had an itch. Kees had an itch too. We BOTH got guitars. I have no idea how to play but we’re going to learn.

Sophia and Coulter have started winter basketball and Bob is coaching Sophia’s team. It is so much fun to see them playing, learning and having fun. The coaches are great and the man who runs the program is amazing. The place they play and practice is only blocks from our house.

And finally, last night, we went out for family karaoke. It was great fun and totally hilarious. There were 5 families that we knew and everyone (most everyone) was singing. There were a few really bad singers a few good ones and most of us just in the middle. My pal Sarah did back up dancing while her son sang. We laughed heartily. She even managed a somersault to which she reported, “The floor is really sticky.” I don’t even want to know…… My friends Mary Ann and Elana rocked it with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. When the rock part started, Mary Ann was spinning her hair around and shaking her head so hard I thought, “There is no way I would do that.” Today, Mary Ann is saying the same thing. I think she gave herself whiplash. It was worth it though. Again with the laughing…… It was fun. Sophia even got in on the act. Kees and Coulter just hung out on stage watching everyone perform.

So that is my brief of the past month. I have been wanting to blog but got so far behind I couldn’t catch up. I know that was a LONG one but it was all fun stuff. I hope that we have time to breath and that I can write about some other stuff soon. Sophia’s birthday is next week¸ that should be good material.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Christmas Letter 2010

Dear friends and family, The Leeks are doing well and we hope you are too. We’re all growing and changing and generally enjoying life. I try and hold every moment that I can in my heart. Our kids are so precious and adorable right now. They change almost daily, I can hardly keep up with their funny sayings, growth and development and general upward trajectory. It is a blessing and a privilege to be part of their lives. Of course there are days when the blessings aren’t as obvious but I choose to focus on the blessed part of the job.

As it is in most of our homes…. life was certainly busy this year. Sophia played soccer and basketball. Bob coached the basketball team. She continues to play her fiddle, sew, do art, sing in her school choir and has been in a couple plays. Coulter played soccer for the first time this year. He wasn’t very interested at first but had a blast when he got out there. Kees, he’s more of an observer at this point. He plays on the side lines and we think he’s going to be quite the soccer player.

We did a bit of travel this year. Spring Break was spent at the Oregon Coast as family time. We always have so much fun there. We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather and had a few 65+ degree days. It was heaven!

In April I went to the Bahamas solo. What a wonderful, relaxing time! I had 7 full days of pool time, reading and amazing dinners. I cannot thank my friends enough for taking good care of me. They are gracious, generous and very dear to me.

We did some camping over the summer, most notably at the end of June for my mom’s 70th birthday. She threw quite a party with friends and family from far and near. Ed and I sang some tunes together and Mom even got in on the act. We closed out the weekend with a clam bake. Oh baby, it was a MOUND of seafood with most of it from their very own beach. Divine…..It was great fun.

Then in August we went to a different island than usual with the McGanns. We’re so blessed to have them in our lives. The kids were great together and of course, the adults were too. Later in the month the kids and I went to San Francisco and we stayed with our pals the Slacks. We love going to “The City.” We went to parks, museums, aquariums, Chinatown, the Wharf and so on. We could have spent the whole summer there and not done the same thing twice. I even reconnected with a friend from 4th grade. She looked the same, amazing.

And most recently we spent Thanksgiving with Dad and Sally and family on both sides. It was lots of fun and the kids all couldn’t get enough of each other. Then the following weekend our family went to Hood River with some friends to kick off the holiday season in a Norman Rockwell-esk fashion, riding the Polar Express and enjoying a couple of nights in the Hood River Hotel. Do it. It was fabulous.

A report on the parents….. Mom and Ed went on a 16,000 mile RV trip around the US and Canada. You can read all about it on my mom’s blog - Dad and Sally moved to Anderson Island and the pace seems to suit them nicely. And Bob’s parents, Ans and Bert, bought an RV. They’re likely to show up anytime. We never know what they’re up to.

Sophia is almost 10, double digits baby. She is beautiful, smart and really funny. Last week I told her she’d been invited to the birthday party of a boy she likes (he likes her too). I said, in a sing songy voice, “I think he likes you.” And without missing a beat she responded, “What’s not to like!” I laughed long and hard about that one. She is still riding horses and wishes she could do that everyday. She is a great role model to her brothers, loves them so much and is quite protective of them. You mess with the boys, you mess with the Fia. She’s been playing school with the boys and taught Kees to read. I’d love to take credit for that but it was all Sophia.

Coulter will be 7 on 12/29. He’s totally silly, very funny, whip smart and as charming as ever. Coulter will make some girl really happy someday with his need to snuggle, hug and be affectionate. For now though, he’s my snuggler. He is also doing well in school and is a complex thinker. He was given the following question at school, “Tom has 6 eggs in a carton. 2 of them break. How many eggs does Tom have left?” Coulter laughed heartily and said between giggles, “He still has 6 eggs only 2 of them are broken.” And he continued to laugh. I told him he was right but that he needed to explain his answer. Luckily, his teacher agreed with Coulter after his explanation.

Kees is 5. He was old enough for kindergarten but we felt strongly that as an August baby he would benefit from another year of preschool. He is doing GREAT! He has the same teacher as last year so he knows the routine and he thinks he is king of the hill. And indeed, he sort of is. As I said earlier, he’s reading and doing math. That made me nervous that he’d be bored in Kindergarten but the principal at the elementary school assured me that he’d be fine. I hope so. He loves school so much I’d hate to do anything to deter that. We have Mommy and Kees Day every Wednesday. It’s been so much fun just being together and having time to really enjoy my last baby. He’s growing so fast. He too makes me laugh. The other day while trying to help Coulter with his Mad Science Project Kees insisted that they needed to add some corn-bioxide. He didn’t know what it was or what it did, but they definitely needed some.

I am doing the mom thing exclusively. Since everyone is in school at least 5 half days I have been able to do more volunteering. I drive for Meals on Wheels every week, help with art in the class rooms, go on field trips and fill in here and there to help out. Our teachers are working so hard to do more with less we all need to do what we can.

Bob is still with Kaiser at the Sunnyside Hospital as their, CIO and Assistant Hospital Administrator. He enjoys his work a great deal and works with a great group of leaders. Bob was recently chosen to participate in an Executive Leadership Program for 4 weeks at Harvard! It’s such an honor. I’m very proud and he’s excited. He is playing golf fairly regularly and even took a 4 day trip to play golf in Dallas with a group of 16 men. He’s wanted to go on a golf trip for a long time. Oh, and he turned 40 this year. My big baby is growing up! We surprised him with a birthday Jeep. He’s been missing his since he sold it 8 years ago. He was mighty surprised, in shock you might say.

We continue to feel blessed in and by our community. We have built amazing relationships on so many different levels. I have NEVER lived in one location for more than 4 years before and I am loving it. I love seeing friends at the grocery store, saying hello to my neighbors as they walk by and shouting to my girl friends as they walk their kids to school. Oh, and more work on the house. Too cool.

May you be blessed during this magical season and in the year to come. Remember Christ’s birth and rejoice in his promise. Love to you all.. Heather and Fam….. P.S. If you need more Leeks in your life check out my blog at